COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus disease 2019, is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. COVID-19 is affecting communities throughout the world, and organizations such as the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending populations at increased risk for complications — including older adults and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease — take extra precautions to protect their health.
Health agencies are also encouraging all individuals to stay home as much as possible, especially if there is an outbreak in their community. It is currently recommended that if you develop a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider before going to the hospital or emergency room.
Food Safety Concerns
While practicing home food safety and good personal hygiene are always important, handwashing is especially critical in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and should be done often. Before preparing or eating food, it’s important to wash your hands with clean water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. You should also wash your hands after being out in public, touching your face, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, or using the bathroom. If handwashing is not an option, hand sanitizer with at least 60-percent alcohol may be used until soap and water become available. Other practices, such as cleaning and disinfecting countertops and other surfaces can also serve as protection to you and others.
Although questions have been raised regarding the transmission of COVID-19, there is currently no evidence to suggest that it can be transmitted through food or water systems, but sharing food and beverages is discouraged. Proper home food safety is advised, including promptly refrigerating foods, keeping raw and cooked foods separate, and heating food to the appropriate internal temperature.
Access to Food
During this public health emergency, government agencies have developed flexibilities to help individuals who use programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also developed plans for children who participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs so that they are able to have continued access to food during prolonged school closures.
Older adults and other individuals who are considered at increased risk for complications from COVID-19 should evaluate the foods they have at home. If you are at high-risk or are unable to get the items you need, consider contacting family or friends to assist. Meal delivery and grocery delivery services may be available as an alternative option, and many businesses are offering additional precautions to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Supplements and Claims for Cures
Currently, there are no known cures for COVID-19, though research is underway to develop a vaccine. In its continuing efforts to protect consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been monitoring and warning companies that offer fraudulent products that claim to help prevent, diagnose, treat or cure COVID-19. Untested supplements and other products touted as a prevention or cure to COVID-19 that are not regulated by the FDA may be dangerous and potentially life threatening. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to sellers of unapproved and misbranded products claiming they can treat or prevent the virus.